“Wow, you’re brave – you’ve got guts girl!” is the generic response I receive when telling others my storyline for how and why I travel to India as a solo American woman. To others it seems like such a “far off” gutsy move but for me, as a tenacious and passionate designer who wants nothing more than to see her name in bright lights and draping the most prestigious women in the world- it comes as second nature. It’s like breathing; I don’t think I just do. When I think of courage and what courage stands for, I don’t necessarily think of myself as courageous per say. In a recent conversation I had, someone told me that those with the most courage don’t really even know it- they just act out of pure instinct. That made me smile- I AM courageous.
Many ask “why India”? Well, the truth is that I have such an unexplainable connection with this country both creatively and spiritually. From the moment I got off the plane in New Delhi for the first time back in 2014, it clicked instantly as a place where I could magnify my natural ability to create. In the far off land of color, culture, fabrics, trims and embellishment- it felt only right to highlight India and its’ fortes as the core hub of sourcing and design manufacturing for Ollari. India was the one of the first countries I worked with when I started in the industry back in 2009 in Manhattan’s Garment district. I held a position as junior contemporary designer for private label brands such as Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Guess, Mango and Nordstrom to name a few. I naturally became fluid (and crazy infatuated) with creating beading layouts, embroidery motifs and novelty textiles in collaboration with the men and women that come from such long bloodlines of ancestral beaders and embroiderers. It was special and I felt the fire. Playing in bold prints, rich color stories, dye techniques and soft buttery fabrications, I knew India was “home” for birthing Ollari.
“Hope you don’t slave drive underage children working for a penny a day” is the biggest misconception about my work here in India. These women and men that I have worked with over the years are great people- educated, kind and compassionate. They are human, have children, husbands & wives, homes, cars, they travel on vacations, celebrate holidays and holy celebrations- they are essentially just like us. These people have careers, dreams and aspirations; although many, unlike us, aren’t given the fair chance to pursue them.
The response I get when telling my story of India to those who have never been? Some look at me with awe, curiosity and aspiration while others look at me with confusion and doubt. “Isn’t it dangerous for women in India?” Yes and no. The reality is that you can be put in “dangerous” scenarios anywhere you go. You’ll find dangerous roads, people and places and of course a bad seed or two no matter the continent. It’s all about ducking and dodging the bad and finding the good. India has some of the most thoughtful and gracious people I have ever encountered. It is their pleasure to greet and cater to you. I’ve met some incredible selfless people here in India during the course of the last 4 years and am excited to call this place “home” in September of 2018.
As a developing country known for its daily pollution, consistent traffic jams, loud horns and roaming cattle- I have known this country to be much more than that. Despite its hardships and cliché tall tales, I truly have grown to love beautiful India for all it has to offer.
“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else”- Erma Bombeck
DREAM BIG and thank you for following my journey!